Righthaven: Denver Post reports about controversy without mentioning Brian Hill

Last November, we failed to get MediaNews Group executive Sara Glines to comment on a copyright protection warning printed by the Denver Post -- and did so again after controversy flared over the Post's partnership with lawsuit machine Righthaven LLC and its targeting of chronically ill, mildly autistic hobby blogger Brian Hill earlier this year. But now we don't feel so bad -- because she apparently won't talk to the Post, either.

Nearly lost in the hoopla over the Post's coverage of the Michael Hancock prostitution-link story was a belated in-print acknowledgment of the paper's Righthaven connection. But the piece, "Copyright litigator working for Denver Post takes criticism for its tactics," offers a weak, startlingly incomplete look at the company and its approach, as well as its association with the Post.

How's the setup work? The Post assigns the copyright of items already used without authorization by bloggers and so forth to Nevada-based Righthaven, whose attorneys file lawsuits against the alleged scofflaws -- and then offer to drop litigation in exchange for a hefty cash payment, among other demands. That's the technique used on Hill, who can't work due to what he describes as "a brittle case of Type 1 diabetes" that requires his mother to monitor his sleep each night to make sure he doesn't die. Righthaven reps suggested taking chunks of the disability payments Hill and his mom count on to survive before dropping the case amid some epically bad publicity.

As for the Post's article, it manages to omit any mention of Hill while including a quote from his attorney, David Kerr, and quoting from a ruling by Judge John Kane that chastised Righthaven's actions in the case. Neat trick. Even more hilarious, reporter John Ingold notes that Glines declined to speak for the Post item, forcing him to reference the one quote she's provided thus far -- for a May 2 New York Times offering that used Hill as its centerpiece. In an e-mail, Glines wrote, ""We have invested heavily in creating quality content in our markets. To allow others who have not shared in that investment to reap the benefit ultimately hurts our ability to continue to fund that investment at the same level."

Of course, there are many other ways to enforce copyright other than the Righthaven method -- and the Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are the only major daily newspapers we know of to have signed up with the firm. But this area of inquiry is absent from the Post article, as is plenty of other pertinent information -- like, for instance, reference to a letter sent to Post publisher and MediaNews Group head honcho Dean Singleton by Reporters Without Borders, which likened Righthaven's targeting of Hill to the sort of free-speech squelching practiced by authoritarian regimes.

Yes, the Post has finally broken its silence on Righthaven -- but it did so in a manner that's journalistically embarrassing. Which seems somehow appropriate.

More from our Media archive: "Matt Drudge latest target of a Denver Post-related copyright infringement lawsuit."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts